Its 6:30 a.m., still dark outside in winter, no sign of sunshine yet. I go wake my youngest up to get ready for school. I let the dog out and start breakfast, while catching up on world news. The time goes swiftly and the kids are out the door by 7:30 a.m. I finish my routine since my first teleconference doesn’t begin until 9:00 a.m., and let the dog out one more time while logging onto my computer by 8:00 a.m. to start my day at work.
Welcome to the world of the remote workforce.
Although, this isn’t a new concept working remotely or telecommuting a few days a week is becoming a hot topic again – reassess – embrace – reorganize. Last year you may recall Yahoo’s new CEO Banned Working from Home. Brave move, smart? I wouldn’t agree with this decision, being a remote person myself. The rationale for the decision by the large company was one stated as a desire for increasing productivity and a more connected company culture. There were many comments discounting this decision that it was based on fear. Fear that if I can’t see you, I don’t know what you’re doing and working on. That empowers a culture that you distrust your workforce, not a great motivator. I haven’t seen much in the following year in the news on Yahoo following this decision, but suspect it wasn’t as positive of an outcome as they had hoped, unless it was a way to trim the fat.
On the opposite side of the coin, Dell has recently announced that it wants half of its employees working remotely by 2020. The company reported that 20% of its local employees in Austin, TX are working remotely and it saved the company ~ $14 million last year alone, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by pulling ~ 7,000 cars off local roads/highways. A 2011 study by nonprofit human resources association WorldatWork found that companies with stronger cultures of flexibility experienced lower turnover and increase employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement. Additional studies have shown that telecommuting and working for home is associated with higher productivity.
My day usually ends around 5:00 p.m., without the hassle of traffic. It’s beautiful. I can take time prior to dinner to check in with my family. Take the dog for a walk or usher a kid to their extracurricular activities without stress. I travel a fair share in my job and my kids love the fact that although I’m working, they can see me and I’m still home. Working remotely full time is not a “big company” initiative; it works for small and mid-sized companies too.
The advantage I have experienced as a people manager is it allows me to hire good people who can’t move. My talent pool opens significantly when hiring for key positions. Additionally, it doesn’t allow me to lose people as a result of their family needs to move to another location. Where people live is important and having someone move to another city, state, country where they/family may not ‘fit in’ can cause poor feelings toward work and productivity. Lastly, as a manager I can’t easily know the days’ work of each person, but that’s okay for me because I focus on what they’ve done and delivered. It’s not about butts in chairs anymore. Let’s face it anyone can hide away and surf the internet and get caught up in social media in an office or not; it’s all about the deliverable and accountability this is the 21st century of work. All of my people work remotely and there has been several times where I’m asking them to shut the computer off and walk away for a breather, not the other way around.
Working remotely isn’t for everyone or every position. The key from a company and team perspective is to commit to the culture. There needs to be a solid infrastructure to support remote employees and even if only one team member is remote, every person on the team must start communicating online and remotely. There is no more of rounding people up in the office to make a decision. Additionally communication channels need to be consistent and explicit. You can’t rely on water cooler conversations or gossip to spread the word. Communication is that elephant in the room that most company’s strive to be better at. If you work remotely it’s your link and connection to your teams, company and colleagues. So ensure you’re communicating and not just by email. Email is asynchronous communication for status updates and decisions. Instant messengers, teleconferences, web meetings, video meetings, etc… these are your base communications.
So what are your thoughts on working remotely? Do you like the idea? Are you working remotely now?
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